65th Octave Chapter Thirty Nine

by | Apr 13, 2022 | Content Updates

65th Octave




Robin was bombarded with alternating waves of fury and dread. His rented Mercedes rolled through the massive iron gates that protected the estate. As he entered the drive, an ominous looking cloud suddenly obscured the sun and the sky turned forbidding. The wind shrieked and lashed icy tendrils at the trees. An omen? Omens didn’t matter now. He was going in anyway. He drove ahead.

He was ready and determined to find his friend, despite the surges of pent-up rage he could almost taste.

The car’s tires crunched over thick gravel, sounding like small explosions. He said “I’m wound tighter than a piano string.”

“We are, too,” Talking Panther replied. “There are times when tension is good. The panther is tense before she strikes her prey.”

The gravel entrance, edged with alternating rows of trees and thick, high hedges, looked a mile long; it spiraled and twisted like a coiled snake. The castle revealed itself, then disappeared again behind the shrubs.

MacAllen drove slowly, moving closer and closer to the massive manor house that sprang again into view. Reflecting the morning sun, at a distance the house’s tawny stone appeared quite beautiful. Now, as the sky turned gray, Robin saw that the stone was damp, smudged and black. The surroundings grew foreboding, malignant, as the Mercedes continued its slow approach. The house disappeared behind another thick hedgerow.

Robin followed the gravel road as it turned left and saw the mansion through a break in the hedge. Near the house was a rusted fence of heavy metal, charcoal-colored and spiked. Ancient gargoyles and two tremendous carved lions stood, icy stone cloaked in a weighty blanket of mold. Robin shuddered as the vacant granite eyes of the lions bore into him, profane faces contorted into malevolent grins. They spoke to him as guardians of the darkness.

“I’ll get out near the house and work my way through the shrubs to the rear,” he said. “Talking Panther, you inquire at the front door. Ask to see the head of the house. Say you’re on an urgent matter that can only be discussed with the owner. Try to get inside, see whatever you can. Keep the owner busy claiming to be a photographer wanting to do a photographic essay of the manor. Silent Panther, you stay here and feel the vibrations while I try to get in from the rear and find Ian.”

They turned one more bend and he saw the house directly ahead of them. He stopped just before the gate. “Okay, I’ll get out here and work my way through these bushes to the back. Be careful. If you feel any trouble, get out and go back to the hotel. Silent Panther, if you feel any trouble at all, honk the car horn. If I hear you honking, I’ll come back, but don’t wait if you’re at risk. Leave and send the police. I’ll take care of myself.”

He stepped out of the Mercedes and was about to walk into the thick tall cedar bushes when he was stopped by a man’s voice calling his name.

“Mr. MacAllen! There is no need to use the service entrance.

“Please come in and do bring those beautiful, enchanting native women with you. I have waited such a long while to meet you again. Tea is ready. We can sit and chat-you, me, the young ladies and Mr. Fletcher!”

Robin was so stunned that for a moment he could not move. He was elated at the mention of Ian’s name. An enormous wave rocked him at the same time. He glanced at Silent Panther and Talking Panther. For the first time since they had started this journey, he saw that they were truly startled.

He heard the crunch of footsteps on the gravel. Someone was walking towards the car. The man who had just spoken approached. He was tall and slim, elegantly dressed in black silk shirt, dark corduroy trousers and high-topped leather riding boots. He appeared to be middle-aged. He had high cheekbones and was cleanly shaven, had a ruddy complexion and well-oiled black hair slicked away from a deep widow’s peak. Cedric!

The man spoke again, in an unctuous voice. “Come, now, Mr. MacAllen, you have traveled so far. You must be exhausted. And we have much to discuss. Please, do come in. The weather is appalling out here. You will enjoy the fire. You are quite safe you know; nothing to bother about here. Mr. Fletcher and I can explain everything.”

Robin looked at both women. Their eyes were closed and they looked calm, steady. Talking Panther whispered, “We can’t feel anything here, Robin. We cannot sense a thing! Do we have a choice?”

This was Cedric. This was the man in his vision. His dream had warned him that Cedric was a treacherous man who would do anything to get his way. He was self-centered, evil, wanting everything and willing to do whatever was required to procure it, regardless of the rights of others, or their pain. Actually, the man liked to watch pain. He wanted others to suffer. Cedric would kill without a second thought. And he had.

Robin knew the two women were with him totally, even as far as death. Now the decision was his. Their lives and Ian’s life could well depend on his next move.

All this raced through Robin’s heart as Cedric offered his hand to shake Robin’s. “Pine-Coufie is my name, Cedric Pine-Coufie. We met once, long ago. I’m so pleased you are here. Come, follow me.” Pine-Coufie spoke in a high-pitched dead voice that indicated he was anything but pleased.

“We’ve met?” Robin replied, his mind trying to sort the face and the voice. He searched his memory and then recalled Pine-Coufie. He suddenly understood why the man had seemed so familiar in his dream.

“Yes,” Pine-Coufie replied. “About twenty years ago.”

Robin had been operating from the Philippines and was consulting for a British client named Royce whose ill health had forced him to retire and sell his manufacturing firm. The buyer was Cedric Pine-Coufie, the second son of one of England’s oldest families, one that had influenced England for centuries. With a history of ruthless but self-serving support for the Royal Family, the Pine-Coufies had prospered, especially during colonial times. Mainly they had grown vastly wealthy at the expense of the East Indians.

Stories of immense fortunes built from factories run by near-slaves brutalized by unimaginable atrocities had been told all too frequently not to be true. There had been a family secret concerning Pine-Coufie’s elder brother who should have inherited the estate. He had died early … mysteriously, in India, as had the senior Pine-Coufie’s second wife.

Robin recalled the meeting where he and Cedric had met. The Pine-Coufies’ large house had overlooked Manila Bay. They had met in an oppressive cavernous hall. The walls were covered with tiger skins and mounts of elephant. There were many other treasures, all memorabilia of the stains left on colonial lands.

He remembered Cedric, a man refined by generations of unchecked exploitative families, and the tragedy that had occurred. His client, Royce, had been a good person. He came from a wealthy family of the old school-proud, responsible, honest and loyal to the core. His word had been his bond; he and Robin had naturally accepted Cedric’s word.

“Every employee will be kept on,” Cedric had promised. “Plans will be developed to build an even larger business to benefit the community.” On a handshake the deal had been made.

Cedric had immediately moved the business from the Philippines to India and had terminated the entire workforce. Simultaneously, a trustee of the company had embezzled the entire pension fund and mysteriously disappeared. The small village that Royce’s business almost exclusively employed had been destroyed.

Disgraced and in shock, Royce had hung himself. Royce’s death had ended the monthly endowment for life Cedric was to have paid for the business, leaving Royce’s wife of fifty years destitute. Robin had given her money just to return home. He remembered how Melanie had tried to help the poor woman. That had been when Melanie had disappeared!

Blood pounded in his Robin’s head. A red haze filled his line of sight.

Robin had never believed Royce’s death had been a suicide. Nor had he believed that the company’s trustee had stolen the pension. He had always felt that both men had been killed, leaving Cedric the business and pension funds at no cost.

MacAllen’s mind exploded with comprehension. Melanie had been helping Royce’s wife pack and was cleaning up Royce’s papers. Supposedly she had stumbled across information that implicated Cedric! Rage hammered and tore through him, and his body prepared to strike out.

Talking Panther’s hand was suddenly on his arm. “Good Morning, Mr. Pine-Coufie. My name is Talon Osceola. This is my sister, Wing. We are friends of Mr. MacAllen.”

Her gentle touch helped Robin catch himself. There’s enough terrible danger here without losing my cool. That bastard.

Somehow Melanie … He knew he had to calm down. He’s leading us into a trap. But we have to go through with this. It’s the only way to find Ian.

Cedric motioned them to follow. Robin watched Pine-Coufie’s stiff, short steps. He let Pine-Coufie enter the house first and went in next to block the two women from any immediate danger there might be. He scrutinized the large entrance hall. Only a butler was waiting nearby.

The hall, paved with massive flagstones, led to two wide stone staircases rising on opposite sides of the room. Two enormous bouquets of long-stemmed red roses stood in pedestal vases across the hall near an arch. Beyond the arch he could see a sitting room with high ceiling and framed windows overlooking a huge, very well manicured lawn. The crack and roar of a fireplace came from that room.
The three of them followed Pine-Coufie through the entrance hall and past the fire in the sitting room, where they turned left into a large study with walls covered in mahogany and leather panels. Here another fire was burning. In the center of the room, sitting before the hearth in a chair of cracked leather, was Ian Fletcher.

“Ian, for God’s sake! Are you all right?” Robin blurted out as he rushed into the room.

Ian glanced at him briefly and then turned without reply and stared vacantly into the flames. Robin searched Ian’s blank face, spun around and asked Pine-Coufie, “What have you done to him?”

Hearing no answer, he turned and saw Pine-Coufie locking the door. He turned to face Robin. A sudden, baleful expression had transformed the man’s face. Cedric’s look of urbanity had changed into an evil malevolent glare-the look of a death mask was reflected eerily at Robin in the glow of the firelight.

Pine-Coufie spoke, the oily tone gone. It was replaced by a brusque ugly voice. “No, Mr. MacAllen, Mr. Fletcher is not quite salubrious. We have had to use some measures that have been, shall I say, harsh. In the last few days we have used influential drugs. He is recovering and should be able to speak coherently in a few moments. For the time being, you and I, and these beautiful ladies shall have a chat. I trust you will be more, shall I say, accommodating than Mr. Fletcher. Would you care for some tea or coffee?”

Robin scanned the grim room. They were trapped. “What kind?” he asked stalling for time, his mind searching for a path of escape. The only light, a small lamp sitting on a large mahogany desk, was aided by the flickering of the blaze. It had become foreboding as it danced its ghost like reflections across Pine-Coufie’s stony face. There were no windows, nor any doors other than the one that had just been locked.

Pine-Coufie’s reply was snide, his voice cruel. “Yes, Mr. MacAllen, you are trapped. This was so effortless. You avoided all the idiots who were supposed to bring you to me. Finding the proper help these days is tedious. Please don’t get any ideas about either escaping or hurting me. The door is locked from the outside as well as from within, and my man out there is well armed. He would be highly unpleasant to meet right now. Believe me, I am far more pleasant than he, and my needs are ever so humble.”

Then Pine-Coufie’s face turned red and his voice shook as he ferociously smashed his fist on the door “What I want, Mr. MacAllen, is the rest of that bloody, damn book.” Robin instinctively placed himself between Pine-Coufie and the women as he replied, “Rest of the book? Rest of what book? I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Pine-Coufie stood by the door, composed himself and spoke again, his voice low and deadly sounding. “Come now, Mr. MacAllen. Don’t be covert. We know Mr. Fletcher gave the book to an old man we had been following in London for months. We know the man gave the book to Clague and we know Clague passed the book to you before we were able to attend to him.” His blank face suddenly twisted into a malefic smile. “I enjoyed watching Clague dealt with. He went down with such a pleasing thump. Killing can be that way, you know, the ultimate control. You understand I want the rest of that book very much and I’m willing to be quite lenient if you will help. You don’t have to die.”

“How about Melanie and Royce?” Robin asked as he stepped towards him. Cedric reached into the drawer of a table that stood by the door, retrieved a small stainless steel pistol and pointed it directly at Robin.

“Not one more step, Mr. MacAllen. I assure you I’m an excellent shot. I have a military background, you know. The Royal Guards. It wasn’t the best part of my life. Too much exertion and, as you can imagine, I don’t fit well in a chain of command, except at the top. Damned peons trying to tell me, the son of our oldest family, what to do. But I did learn to use guns. Don’t let this one’s size misguide you. The bullets are glazers. They explode upon impact so I won’t have to hit a vital organ to tear you apart!”

Cedric stepped closer as he continued speaking. “Royce? I almost forgot him. So many bodies ago. That’s how you and I originally met, isn’t it? You were as foolish as that bloody old stuffed shirt. The Royce family, always so imperious. Thought they were better than we were, just because they had served the Royals in the colonies for a little longer than our family had. Well, look who controlled their business in the end. Our families had grappled for generations. I enjoyed the denouement. I assume Melanie was that interfering little tart who called herself an accountant. We sent her fishing. She made excellent bait, if you get my drift. Now I think we have talked enough. I want the rest of that book.”

Cedric stepped closer and raised the pistol level to Robin’s eyes.

“We took it from you at the Bear Inn. Do you remember? Or do I need to remind you. But you made a copy didn’t you.  I want it back … Now!” The man’s voice had gotten progressively louder and was sounding more disturbed than ever.

Pine-Coufie’s face turned a deep scarlet. “I am trying to keep my composure, Mr. MacAllen. I know you have communed with the book. Otherwise you would never have been able to do what you have this past week. You must be quite clever to perceive the concepts so expeditiously.”

Robin was overwhelmed. His breath was taken away and he couldn’t reply for a moment. “Melanie’s dead?” he asked after a minute. He was still looking down the barrel of the gun that was ready to carry him to oblivion. A sense of closure began to engulf him. After all this time, after so many years of questions and uncertainty, he finally knew.

“Of course, she’s dead. I shot her myself, you ass, with this very gun. Twice in the back of the head. My men dumped her in Manila Bay. She pried in places she should not have. Just like Mr. Fletcher here. She was a pestilent, righteous bitch, Mr. Mac Allen. She kept insisting that Mrs. Royce should have her money. These damned accountants shouldn’t snoop so much. They should keep their place, do their jobs, and keep their mouths shut.”

Robin’s eyes teared. All these years. I knew you didn’t run, Melanie. I knew you were good. Now I can say goodbye. Then he looked into the threatening gun barrel again. Or maybe it’s hello, he thought. Maybe we’re about to be together again.

MacAllen took a step back and asked, “She didn’t suffer?” Cedric looked blank, paused and then laughed. “Suffer … Suffer? The girl? You must be demented. You don’t know the meaning of the word. But unless you tell me where to get the book, you will understand the word all too well. The girl? She was too busy on the phone trying to inform the police even after I warned her not to. I had to stop that. She never knew what hit her. She denied me the pleasure of watching her cry and beg.”

He aimed the gun again, directly at Robin’s head. “But I said this is enough talk. Tell me where the rest of the book is!”

“She wouldn’t have, you know,” Robin replied, his voice steady as he kept his eyes riveted on the gun.

Cedric’s look shifted from annoyed to puzzled. “Who wouldn’t what?” he demanded.

Robin’s gaze remained steady as he replied, “Melanie would not have begged. Not for you, not for all your men. You might have beat her, you might have tormented her, but you couldn’t have broken her. She’d never fear the likes of you.”

Cedric laughed. “Oh, come now, Mr. MacAllen. You really don’t understand, do you? Everyone has something they fear, especially women. Have you no understanding of culture at all? Women are so sentimental, so … messy. Even my mother.” Cedric’s eyes took on a far away, almost dazed, look, as if he were seeing something clearly in his memory.

“Father should have known when he dipped into common blood. Damned commoner sneaking back to her own. Returning to the natives. But I took care of her too-and my brother, the bastard!” Cedric spit the words out.

“Claiming I was not his equal. But I am not a half breed!” By now Pine-Coufie was shouting. “Nor do I desire women, especially half breeds. What is it about you, Mr. MacAllen? Why are you always dallying with the natives? It’s so like you commoners, always rutting with anything you encounter. You’re barbaric, uncouth. No culture. You’re uncivilized. Not like myself with my pure blood. My blood runs pure from my father, and his father before him, and back for generations.”

The man’s insane, Robin thought. I must stay in control. He wouldn’t be speaking like this if he planned to let us live.

He watched Pine-Coufie move his slender, angular frame towards the fire and heard him speak again. “Come, come, Mr. MacAllen. I have played enough games with Mr. Fletcher. My patience has expired. Perhaps I should remind you of the last meeting we had at the Bear Inn, so you will not forget with whom you deliberate.”

Robin was about to speak when he saw Pine-Coufie reaching for a small golden orb hanging from a chain around his neck. Cedric’s eyes suddenly rolled back into his head. The whites stared at him lifelessly, like a ghost’s eyes, loathsome and forbidding and soulless.

The attack came without warning, snatching him like a vise, wrapping around and crushing him, even though nothing was there. The force was instant, and then just as suddenly, it stopped. The onslaught hit again and increased in intensity. Robin reeled. He stumbled backwards, numb from it.

Robin first dropped down to his knees and then crashed to the floor. The force on his body immediately lessened. He lay there a moment, then crawled to his knees and stood to face Pine-Coufie.

A stunned look appeared on Pine-Coufie’s face. “How? How can you stand against the force?”

Talking Panther spoke, her voice hoarse, but somehow still composed. “There will be no more of this. You cannot use the force while we are here. We return it to the universe. If you try this again, we will return it to you. Like this.”

Pine-Coufie’s skin blanched. He stumbled back against the chair. He caught his breath and Robin could see a flash of fear cross his face.

A hateful smile creased Cedric’s face and he spoke again. “Well, well. What do we have here? We certainly did not learn that by reading bits of our book, did we? So this is your little secret, Mr. MacAllen. You have brought along your own little rogue Controllers. How absolutely charming.”

Pine-Coufie’s voice was just a little short of a hiss. “Your little red native here is quite impressive. She seems to know the vibrations quite well. Not that it will do you any good. You are quite ingenious to have hidden them from us for so long. We thought we had wiped out these Indian devils centuries ago. You must. .. “

Robin cut Pine-Coufie short. “I don’t think we must do anything. I think what you must do is let the four of us out of here right now.”

Talking Panther spoke to Pine-Coufie again. “Robin is right. Your powers are useless here. You have learned how to become one with the universe, but your intentions are not full. Your spirits are harnessed and directed for personal use rather than for all. A harnessed spirit can never run as strongly as those free to act in total accord with natural law. Your power is limited by your desire. Unlimited power is attained only by following your spirits and hearing the wisdom which only the free spirits of the cosmos can sing.”

She was cut short as Pine-Coufie spat, “It’s so charming to see that you are such a righteous red Indian bitch. But don’t you dare threaten me!” Pine-Coufie was beginning to lose control. The tremor in Cedric’s voice was now from terror, not rage. He’s weak, Robin thought. His power comes from inflicting punishment, from a position of surprise and absolute control. Now he doubts his powers. I can hear it in his voice.

Robin struggled to hold his emotions in check. An impulse that was so strong he felt rather than thought it swept through his mind. It was Melanie! “You are the strength of the buffalo, Robin. I’ll always be with you in this strength. We are united always. We are all of us, one in the spirit. Let the rest of me go.”

MacAllen knew he did not need to attack Pine-Coufie. His own power was in this feeling of peace he now had and the quiet inside of him. Melanie is gone, but she is fine. His suffering and doubts had been wasted. The doubts he had had for so many years about Melanie’s fate, and the anguish of not knowing were gone. My suffering over Dad, too, he thought. They’ve been forced from me, but they continue to live in me. There’s nothing to regret. This physical existence is just a blink in eternity. We’ve never been apart and we’ll never be apart.

“I won’t die today, Pine-Coufie,” Robin said quietly. Cedric raised an eyebrow.

“Ian, Talking Panther and Silent Panther are staying with me,” Robin continued. “You have no power over them.”

Talking Panther interrupted. “I do not threaten you. I will not even try to thwart your attempts at misusing the universal power. I lay the lives of my friends into the hands of my spirits instead, and I will accept this fate. But, be warned, Mr. Pine-Coufie, that my friends are guarded by these spirits now. If you use your power against them, you will suffer whatever fate the spirits choose. My life and my friends’ lives are now in their hands.”

Robin stepped forward and Pine-Coufie whirled. “Stop right there.” His voice was higher than ever, almost soprano. “You might try to obstruct my power, but I’ve still got the gun in my possession.”

Robin cut him short. “Pine-Coufie, you can’t imagine the power these spirits have. I don’t think you want to see it. You don’t even want to know.”

Pine-Coufie stood deadly still, appearing confused and nervous.

He looked at the four of them, only his eyes, black hard stones, slowly moving from one to the other.

He regained his composure somewhat and spoke again. “Oh, yes, I think I can imagine what power you have. But you are only partially correct, Mr. MacAllen. I would indeed rather not see that power used against me, but it might be quite useful added to my collected forces. We could perhaps make some sort of an arrangement that would be attractive to you and these charming ladies.”

Then Robin heard Ian Fletcher’s voice, very weak and unsteady.

He was laboring to articulate his words. “Jesus, Robin, I knew you’d show up. Don’t believe him. He doesn’t intend to give you anything. He just wants the rest of that book and is too damn stupid to understand neither you or I have it. The minute he has every copy of the book, or the minute he believes I don’t really know where it is, he means to kill us all. I’m just so sorry to have dragged you into this mess. I had no idea what would happen when I called.”

Ian suddenly arched back, in obvious agony. Virtually at the same instant Pine-Coufie gasped. His attack on Ian had been rebounded by the spirits.

Talking Panther spoke again. “I warned you. You cannot use that force on us. We will not harm you, but our spirits will allow the vibrations to return to their source. If you direct your vibrations toward any of us, you will reap their destiny, not us.”

Eagle flashed through Robin’s mind. The sight of the eagle, he thought as he looked again at Pine-Coufie. Now he unquestionably saw the man’s terror. Here was a corrupt image suddenly exposed by light. Pine-Coufie’s force without their fright and anguish was powerless. Robin’s vision became acute. He saw a tremor in PineCoufie’s hand he had not seen before. He saw his sweat and a nervous tic twitching at the corner of one eye. He saw that Pine-Coufie was simply afraid, and always had been. But he had unceasingly hidden behind his power.

Then the spirit of the deer suddenly came to MacAllen. His hearing and sense of smell deepened. He heard the raggedness of Pine-Coufie’s breath and smelled the sour stench of dread in his sweat.
Robin was about to take advantage of this fear and attack Cedric when another Golden Word seized his mind and shook his being. Opossum. Use the spirit of the opossum, he thought, and he was wrapped in compassion for Pine-Coufie. This man’s terrified, alone. What he’s done is part of us too. Can I condemn that? What’s within him must be within me too. I can’t kill him just because he has killed.

Even Melanie. Isn’t there some way I can help?

He spoke gently. “Cedric, you’re right. We should join forces, but for the good of humanity. I promise you won’t be able to see any copy of the book I have that you claim is missing. I don’t know what has happened here with Ian, but obviously he is hurt and you are afraid. Put down the gun and let’s see if there isn’t some way we can resolve this.”

Ian spoke again, his speech, as previously, strained and unstable. Robin kept his eyes on Pine-Coufie and could see him stiffen at his friend’s voice. “Robin, I’ve read the book. What a mess this is. I had no idea when I started investigating Smythe and the missing money at the stockbrokers and found that damn cottage and took the book. I read the first part, the part that explained all about the origins of mankind. How there was just one civilization that ran on the laws of nature and how they all knew that what they did for others they did for themselves and that they all felt the connection and felt a part of the whole. There’s no way out of this you know. There’s no way out.”

Ian’s voice had become barely audible and Robin spoke softly to him. “Ian, it’s okay. Take it easy.”

Clearly upset, Ian replied, “No, you must understand why he cannot let us live. I read the second part of the book, Robin. It explained about civilization and how when it grew it became too large. Then no one felt the connection any more. Parts no longer knew the other. And then fear came out of this, and it was something that there had never been before. A group of men infected with fear turned to greed. The fear blinded them. They learned how to use fear to manipulate others and they thought that this was good. The second part tells all the techniques to use to control others.”
Ian slumped back in his chair. His eyes closed and his head fell.

Speaking had drained what little strength he’d had. Robin walked slowly over to his friend, sat next to him and felt his pulse. It was shallow and very faint. He spoke quickly. “He needs help or he’s going to go into shock.”

Summoning inner resources, Ian fought back into full consciousness, opened his eyes and said, “He won’t help, Robin. As far as he’s concerned I have to die.” His friend’s breath was labored and was coming with great difficulty. “The book explains how Pine-Coufie and his family joined with sixty-four other families. Each has learned how to use one part of the vibrations to create fear. Only for the purpose of controlling others. They’ve wreaked havoc on society for their own bloody gain.”

Ian slumped further but kept talking. “They cannot let us go because we know how they’re using fear to manipulate the whole goddamn world. The book tells how to illuminate fear. That’s why they’re hoarding so many shares in the stock market. They plan to dump everything on the market at once and create a global economic stampede to generate even more fear. They’ll use it to grab even more control.

“Cedric has to kill us because the other Controllers don’t know he let their secret out. He was too damn lazy to deal with the stockbroker himself. Used a Carrier instead, who was killed by lightning. The man’s death led me to their damnable secret. If the other Controllers knew, they’d kill him for sure.”

“Stop!” Pine-Coufie screamed. “You have said quite enough, Mr. Fletcher. You and your snoopy high-held opinions. Where do you think the world would be without our stabilizing influences? It was us who took on the responsibility to make sure mankind doesn’t destroy itself through ignorance. We have kept the order. Someone has to. Humanity does not have the sense to lead itself. You need us.”

Now Ian laughed despite his fragility, and he was racked by a fit of coughing as he spoke. ‘That comes right out of the book. This is the first seed of fear. They plant fear of the unknown, the fear of disorder.”

Suddenly MacAllen’s friend shook violently, suffering a dreadful seizure. “I must tell you where the rest of the book is.” Robin could barely hear him. “It contains their whole plan. I’ve hidden it. .. ” This time Ian coughed blood. He shuddered terribly, doubled over, and then went still. His eyes stared vacantly.

“Ian?” Robin whispered. “Ian … “

Talking Panther moved over and felt for Ian’s pulse. She looked up. “Robin. He is at peace now. He’s joined the Grandfathers.”

Robin turned and looked at Pine-Coufie. His face now looked like a madman’s; he had clearly crossed over from sanity to insanity. He laughed wickedly and spoke. “Well done, Mr. Fletcher. Thank you for letting me know that you really did hide the book. He’s right, Mr. MacAllen, you must die. Now that I know you do not have the book, it might as well be now.”

Cedric aimed the gun at Robin. “In the hands of the general public, that book poses no danger at all. It isn’t easy to read and has no naked women in it. Should it be found, most people wouldn’t even take the time to read it. I have been very lucky today. Mr. Fletcher soothed my concern about the book. He led you and these two rogue Controllers to me. And saved me a bullet as well. I’ll tip my hat to you at your grave, Mr. Fletcher.”

Robin watched Pine-Coufie turn, unlock the door and call, “Samuelson, come in. Bring your shotgun. Now.”

Pine-Coufie turned and bowed his head. “Goodbye, Mr. MacAllen, ladies. I’m so sorry I cannot stay longer but I have important things to attend to. My man will take you outside. We wouldn’t want to ruin these fine carpets, now would we?”

Cedric put his gun in his pocket, opened the door and then suddenly stopped. An overweight man, his shirt stretched to its limits, fat belly hanging over a large gold buckle, was facing him at the door.
The man pointed a huge pistol at Pine-Coufie and spoke very loudly to him. “Stop right there. I don’t know where the hell you think you’re goin’, but right now it ain’t gonna be nowhere.”

Pine-Coufie was immobilized at this, his drawn face a mask of confusion. “I say, who are you? Where is my man, Samuelson?”

Without a word, the heavy man shoved Pine-Coufie back into the room, stepped in himself, and looked around. He grinned malevolently before he spoke to Pine-Coufie.

“Curiosity killed that cat. I guess Samuelson is the son-of-a-bitch that tried to stop me comin’ in here. It’ll be a long hard time before he tries to fuck with me again.”

Robin watched the big man stop and look directly at him as he spoke again. “Well, I’ll be damned. What do we have here? Mr. MacAllen and the lovely Indian twins. What a fuckin’ surprise. Let me introduce myself. Jimmy Ray Burnett, sheriff of Hendry County in the sunny state of Floreeda. We haven’t met before, but I have been wantin’ to make your acquaintance for quite some time. Y’all are under arrest.”

Robin was bewildered. Pine-Coufie said, “Listen, Sheriff, you must be under some terrible misconception. You have no jurisdiction here. There has been no crime. You can’t just stroll into my home and maltreat me in this manner.”

The sheriff strutted closer to Pine-Coufie, pointing his weapon at him as he said, “Sure I can, fell a, cuz I got the gun and you’re lookin’ at it.

“Now listen up, folks. I got lucky this time.” Looking at MacAllen, Jimmy Ray said, “Night before last, seems some dumb ass decided to rob your room over at that fancy Queens Hotel. The police caught him after he crashed his car a little later, driving like a lunatic down the wrong side of the street. Sure nuff the police found your stuff including a letter that guy stole from you. And ya know what that letter was about? It introduced these two foxy Indian girls here to the Prime Minister of England. Told him to give them every assistance.”

Robin stared at Silent Panther and Talking Panther. “You had a letter to the Prime Minister?”

Talking Panther replied blandly, “The Seminole are an independent nation. We never surrendered to the U.S. government. We keep it quiet, but we have our own diplomacy around the world.”

Jimmy Ray bellowed, “Shut up, bitch! I’m doin’ the talkin’ here.

However you got that fuckin’ letter, it damn well got those English polleece hoppin’. They got on the phone to find out more about such important folk who were missin’. Them cops must have been plenty worried cuz sure ’nuff they called the sheriff in the county where you live. That’s me by the way, good ole Jimmy Ray Burnett.” He bowed slightly. They called me clear across the ocean. Course I flew over right away. Just to help out, understand. I knew this meant you were here. They even let me talk to the little guy who broke into your room. He sent me here. Seems my interrogation on that asshole was better than what those wimp English constables could do.”

Jimmy Ray regarded the study; his eyes were menacing, ruthless and ice-cold. “Now you folks think you’re real smart, I know. Ya felt damn smart foolin’ me back there in New York like that with those look-

alikes and all. That cost me a bunch. It screwed my reputation with my suppliers but good.”

Burnett’s face turned scarlet. He shouted, “You really fucked me, ya hear? You made me look a fool! Now it’s my turn to screw you.” The sheriff’s timbre became subdued, his voice filled with contempt. “And when I screw, I screw hard. Unnerstan’? Iff’n you move, when I deliver you to my friends in New York, it will be in pieces: I’d rather cut you in two than as not, so don’t think a movin’.”

Jimmy Ray walked towards Pine-Coufie. “Wait!” the Englishman said. “Now I understand. You are the sheriff my acquaintances in New York hired. You were supposed to detain them for me. Regrettably you didn’t. You are in error, we don’t need you now.”

Burnett looked at Pine-Coufie and spit on the floor in front of him. “Sure, bub. Sure. Now listen up, asshole. I’ve been fooled once already. Won’t happen again. Get in my way and you’re double dipped screwed. Unnerstan’?” Jimmy Ray’s face became more heavily crimson as he yelled, “Hear me?”

Pine-Coufie reached for his necklace. Almost instantly, his eyes became vacant and rolled up to the left. At the same time Jimmy Ray’s eyes bulged gruesomely and he staggered back, collapsed against the wall and grasped his chest.

He roared, “What the fuck?” Then he looked at Pine-Coufie and understood. “You bastard you.” He aimed his gun and pulled the trigger.
Robin’s ears rang from the large gun’s burst in the enclosed room. Pine-Coufie’s head exploded. Batches of it coated the fine paneling on the wall.

Silent Panther jumped from the chair and scrambled for Jimmy Ray’s gun. Jimmy Ray’s hand went his chest and he reeled. Somehow though, he sensed the woman’s movement. He leveled the gun and one shot tore out.

“No!” Robin raved. The gun had discharged not more than a foot from Silent Panther’s chest. The sound was muffled by how close she was but the force of the bullet slammed her against the wall. He heard a sickening thump as her head smashed on the wall. Her body sank to the floor and rolled partway under the massive desk. It lay there motionless, unbearably contorted.

“No!” Robin exploded towards Burnett. Before he could lay his hands on the gun, the sheriff released it. He coughed up an immense jet of blood and dropped like a stone. He was dead before he hit the floor.

Robin was beside himself, wild with rage. Talking Panther spoke to him in an unwavering voice, urgently and firmly. “She is no longer here, Robin. We must leave her and Ian Fletcher and go. We must not be apprehended by the authorities.”

His eyes widened with shock. “Silent Panther was shot. And Ian’s dead. We can’t go anywhere. We can’t just leave them here. We need to… ” MacAllen was losing control.

Talking Panther clutched him by the hand. Her words were deliberate. “They are no longer here. What’s left is a husk. But they are still with us. Please believe me; all is well. Don’t let your heart ache, Robin. We must leave now.”

He could not move. MacAllen tried to convey the enormity of his dismay he felt. All he could say was, “But, but … he shot her, Ian’s gone … “

Talking Panther gently touched her finger to his lips and whispered, “Death is just one more illusion in life, Robin, and is as natural as birth. Do not be a prisoner to this illusion.”

MacAllen let out a great sob.

Now the word Tortoise swelled in his mind … the spirit of the Tortoise, a place of balance where whatever is outside, there is peace within. He drew himself into that. Peace washed over him.

Hours later they were on the outskirts of Manchester. From there, they planned to catch the next morning’s flight home. They pulled into an inn to stay the night. Robin opened the car door, started to get out and stopped. When he spoke his voice was so low he could barely hear his own words. “Silent Panther?”

Silent Panther beamed at him from the back seat of the car. Still she did not speak.